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Friday, December 10, 2010

My mini-bestfriend

I feel grateful to have what my sponsor calls a mini-bestfriend. Today I came home from a meeting to someone who was truly excited to see me. She waved and waved at me from the top of the stairs. When I went upstairs to join her and play, well really she helped me make the bed, we rolled and giggled and cuddled together on the fresh sheets. I can't ask for anything more. I would have said "much" more but that would have implied that there is something more that I could ask for, even if just something small, but really I believe I can't ask for anything more. I've been given such a beautiful gift from the universe.

I heard a story today about someone losing their son to suicide by hanging. Whenever I hear stories about the loss of children these days, my heart just breaks. I feel my stomach harden and my breath stop. Tears threaten to spill out of the corners of my eyes. True love and one's actual vulnerability in the universe are experienced through having a child. I would not go back and change this decision in spite of the fact that now I have something huge to lose. As I was tumbling with her on the bed I thought, I'm going to simply be here now and enjoy being present with her. That is all that matters. If either of us only has a short time left on the planet, I want both of us to spend it wrapped in as much love as possible.

I highlight the fact that I would not go back and make a different choice, even though I am struggling so much these days with marriage, for a reason. Eve would not exist without the choices I have made. She is like the man and the little girl in A Beautiful Mind that remind Russell Crowe about his disease--they never grow old. Eve reminds me that the world is truly good and miraculous. In the midst of all the difficulty, I am reminded that if I perceive the world as only difficult and too hard to deal it is the fault of my perception, not an accurate read on life. Eve brings me back to reality.

And she brings me back to reality hard!  In between the above writing and now, Eve woke from her nap screaming and then, when I went to cuddle her, promptly peed all over both of us. Like I said, she brings me back to reality!

Saturday, December 4, 2010


"But the key to our deepest happiness lies in changing our vision of where to seek it" (Salzberg, 8).

I have been thinking a lot about "happiness" in the last couple of months. The program says that we will be happy, joyous and free and I used to think that I meant that I would feel the "high" that I used to get from taking a drink or drug or doing anything else that allowed me to feel power over myself momentarily. Another way of saying this, is that I felt that "the bondage of self" would be permanently removed. Then I came to think that happiness, joyousness and freedom could never come for me and that I would need to learn to accept that and/or realize that the program doesn't work. More recently I have begun to revise my understanding of happiness. Happiness might be the mindfulness that Buddhists talk about -- being okay, really okay in the present moment with whatever IS. Content. Being human is part of what is. So is having a self. When I seek perfect relief from the self I am asking for perfect oneness with God and the Universe and in that state it is very difficult to live in the world. To live in the world one actually has to get to know the self -- work with the self that was given to him at birth (or even before birth if you believe that).

As an aside, in astrology the final sign of the zodiac is Pisces which is a sign whose drive or energy exactly reflects the conundrum just mentioned. As the astropsychologist Glenn Perry asserts in his section on the lessons of Pisces:

Buddhism holds that liberation from duality is contingent upon the ability to recognize that such opposites [subject-object] are ultimately a trick of the mind, a self created illusion (maya), the reconciliation of which allows for unitive consciousness and liber-ation. By neutralizing opposites through awareness [mindfulness], the illusion of duality is extinguished and the individual attains nirvana.  While all of this is classically piscean, it helps to understand what happens when such a state occurs prematurely, i.e., before the individual has developed a strong and stable identity. In order to give up the self, the self has to be fully mature and differentiated. This is one of those lovely little paradoxes that typifies Pisces. Self-awareness is contingent upon recognition of duality" (Perry, 52).

What this suggests to me is that until I am willing to see my Self and live with my Self, I cannot let go of the Self. This also explains why if you look at the development of an individual he or she begins as a baby and child who is ultimately very self-oriented. It is only late in life that the same person might have developed enough awareness of the Self to be at the point where it would be possible to let that self go. Alcoholics perhaps learn early about the Self, at least that part of it that is hurt and they are forced to get to know that Self, not divorce themselves from it.  And it is in coming to embrace their Selves that they begin to feel liberated from that Self and to feel a connection with God.

In a wonderful book called Mindful Recovery, Thomas and Beverly Bien discuss the way in which the practice of Buddhist mindfulness can allow addicts to heed the lessons of their emotional pain rather than running away from it or trying to fill it with any number of numbing agents (12). Their definition of mindfulness is as follows:

"Mindfulness is a quality of openness, of present-moment awareness and acceptance. Mindfulness is experiencing this moment, this very one, the only moment that exists. Mindful living is not about living in the future or dwelling in the past. It is also not about recriminations when you find yourself in the past or the future. Mindfulness is about getting back in touch with your spiritual essence, your true nature" (13).

They suggest that mindfulness teaches the addict to begin to face the pain, and to listen with awareness to what is going on in one's body, in one's emotions and in the environment. This allows us to "receive clear signals concerning what is out of balance and what hurts" (14).

I highlight this definition of Buddhist mindfulness because I think it helps me heal from a past history of Buddhism that was not quite on the target. What I learned about Buddhism as a child and as a young adult was that meditation and other awareness activities-- practices that teach mindfulness -- were meant to teach me about the delusions of my mind. I was to learn to ignore them. In doing this, I would be freed from the bondage of self. This taught me to IGNORE the signals that I was getting from my body, my emotions and the environment around me. Rather than getting to know myself better, I learned how better to ignore my Self. This might have been useful if I had already developed a good working relationship with my Self, but I was very unaware of who I was -- am. It is in AA that I have come to know myself -- and at a very slow pace I may say!

So how does this connect back to the earlier issue of HAPPINESS. What I am learning is that the happiness I used to seek -- instantaneous relief from the bondage of self -- might have given me short glimpses of what nirvana could be but that in the real world -- away from drugs, alcohol and fantasies -- that kind of liberation has to come from a LONG journey, which begins with actually getting to know my Self, listening to my Self, embracing and accepting and learning from my Self. This means learning to live IN the world where a Self is needed.

Now the other issue is that when I ignored my Self, what got buried got ugly and expressed itself in numerous yucky ways -- addiction, bulimia, exercise obsession, lack of ability to connect with people, depression, anger -- continuing to live THAT way was not going to work. So actually, ignoring the Self does not work at all. Therefore, when I say that I got to know my Self it means that I acknowledged the PAIN that ignoring the Self caused me and stopped identifying my Self with the pain.  It's the Self that I have been ignoring that is the Self that I need to get to know. Embracing and loving that Self is happiness. It is acceptance of what God made.